A significant sea level rise is one of the major anticipated consequences of climate change. This will cause some low-lying coastal areas to become completely submerged, while others will increasingly face short-lived high-water levels. These anticipated changes could have a major impact on the lives of coastal populations. The small island developing states (SIDS) will be especially vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, and to changes in marine ecosystems, because of their major dependence on marine resources (UNEP, 2002). The extent of future sea level rise will depend on a multitude of factors, and is therefore extremely difficult to predict. While rising sea levels will be exacerbated by thermal expansion of the warming oceans, and the melting of land ice, they will be partially offset by increased precipitation over Antarctica (Met Office UK, 2001) Feasibility of a Global Marine Assessment Human activities and climate change is affecting the state of marine environment. The formulation of sustainable, ecosystem-based policies and measures for oceans and coasts needs to be supported by studies and assessments at national, regional and global scales. The Assessment of Assessments (AoA) established by decision of the United Nations General Assembly represents the first step in this international initiative to better understand the complex functioning of our oceans, and to develop a global mechanism to make a reliable information available to all public. It is being undertaken as part of the start-up phase of the regular process in accordance with paragraph 64 (a) of UNGA resolution 58/240. It covers the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects. It builds on the work done by other international forums and, either directly or indirectly through those forums, by national authorities concerned with the marine environment. These assessments will help to better understand the status, trends, interrelations, scenarios and predictions in ecosystem conditions, goods, services, stress and non-use values to humans and vulnerability, resilience, and adaptability, gain a better understanding of how human activities put pressure on and impact ecosystems develop responses and policy options. In addition, a scoping study requested UNEP and IOC of UNESCO in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC has indicated that there was a need for a clear overview at the national, regional and global levels. There are relatively few marine areas subjected to broadly based assessments. They appear to be a range of thematic assessments either completed, under way or planned BUT they are limited in both temporal and spatial coverage. It also said that there was a wealth of information available about the marine environment and new information is becoming available BUT there persists a lack of an overview, in particular on the links between the state of the marine environment and cross cutting issues of human health, seafood safety and sustainable fisheries. Regular assessments of the impact of human activity on the state of the marine environment at national, regional and global level are therefore needed to inform decision making. There is a need to ensure co-ordination at the national, regional and international levels in the development of sound policy recommendations based on the assessment reports - as the oceans are a global common.
From collection: Vital Water Graphics 2
Philippe Rekacewicz, February 2006
The United Nations Environment Programme